Big Game (and five of the best US Presidents on screen)
Unless you happen to be from Finland, or a fan of horror movies, or both, there's every chance you may not have heard of director Jalmari Helander. If, on the other hand, you've seen the film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, then whether you know it or not you've already seen some of his work. Probably the weirdest Christmas film you'll ever see, Rare Exports was based around the traditional Finnish story behind the origin of Santa Claus in which, rather than a jolly fellow handing out presents to nice children, he is a malevolent figure who snatches and punishes naughty kids.
That might not sound very festive, but Rare Exports – written by Helander with his younger brother Juuso – was beautifully shot and highly imaginative, picking up several awards and earning positive reviews from critics and audiences alike. So it was with more than a little anticipation that we greeted his new film, Big Game, which features none other than Samuel L. Jackson in the role of the President of the United States.
The plot goes like this: President William Moore is aboard the presidential aeroplane, Air Force One, when the plane is attacked by surface-to-air missiles somewhere over northern Europe. The President is parachuted to safety before the aircraft is shot down and lands in a Finnish forest, where he is discovered by a young boy named Oskari (played by young Finnish actor Onni Tommila).
The terrorists responsible for shooting down the aircraft soon come looking for the President, but luckily Oskari knows the forest well and is a skilled hunter, using his knowledge to try and keep the president safe until US forces can rescue him.
Anyone who has seen Rare Exports will remember the young actor Tommila, but here he is even more impressive. Jackson, meanwhile, gets to use his favourite word a lot and may just have set the record for number of swears from a US President on the big screen. With an estimated budget of £6.2 million, it is reportedly the most expensive film Finland has ever produced, but it's modest by Hollywood standards and Helander has managed to do an awful lot with the money.
It's out now on DVD (you can order it on the right-hand side of the page) and you can watch the trailer for Big Game below, but while we're imagining how great it would be if Samuel L. Jackson was the real president, we've picked five more of the best portrayals of American presidents on the screen...
Martin Sheen: President Josiah 'Jed' Bartlet (The West Wing)
Aaron Sorkin's political drama ran for seven seasons over as many years, becoming one of the most popular shows of its kind on American television and winning several awards, including three Golden Globes and an astonishing 26 Emmys. A large part of the show's appeal was Martin Sheen's portrayal of the fictional president Jed Bartlet, whose sharp witticisms earned him many admirers, to the point that Bartlet has been described by some political commentators as 'the most popular Democratic president in recent memory'.
Kevin Spacey: President Francis Underwood (House of Cards)
If Jed Bartlett was the most likeable fictional president in television history, then Kevin Spacey's nefarious schemer Francis Underwood is his antithesis. Ruthless, conniving and unflinchingly self-serving, Underwood is one of the shrewdest political operators to appear on screen and Spacey's portrayal of a man working his way up the political ladder, usually at the expense of friends and enemies alike, is what really makes this show worth watching.
Daniel Day-Lewis: President Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln)
Daniel Day-Lewis's ability as an actor needs no introduction from us, but his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln confirmed once again what a tremendous talent he is and the film earned him his third Oscar for a leading actor, making him the first male actor in history to do so, but he initially turned down the role. It was some eight or nine years later when director Steven Spielberg had Leonardo Di Caprio round for dinner, explaining that he had tried and failed to persuade Day-Lewis to take on the role and was on the verge of handing the idea over to HBO to create it as a mini-series. “The next morning he called me at my office”, says Spielberg. “He said, 'Here's Daniel's cellphone number, he's expecting your call.' Leo has never told me to this day what he said to Daniel...” Whatever Di Caprio said, we're glad that he did.
Frank Langella: President Richard Nixon (Frost/Nixon)
David Frost's interview with Richard Nixon has become the stuff of political folklore, exposing his role in the Watergate scandal. Ron Howard's film really brings home just how difficult a task that was and Frank Langella's portrayal of 'tricky Dicky', as he had become known, reveals just how smart and evasive Nixon was capable of being. Martin Sheen deserves some credit for his part in the drama, but Langella totally nails Nixon here.
Jack Nicholson: President James Dale (Mars Attacks!)
From the sublime to the ridiculous, the last inclusion on our list goes to Jack Nicholson for his role as James Dale in Tim Burton's 1996 film. No, this isn't Burton's best film by any stretch, but Nicholson's performance makes the whole thing worth watching and even if his inspirational speech wasn't enough to stop the Martians killing him, he's still an inspiration to us...